Monday, January 22, 2007

Government: Humorous Laws

In seven states, a man and woman who live together without being married are committing a sex crime. So literally millions of people living in Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, North Dakota, Virginia, or West Virginia, are breaking the law right now. Well, some people in North Dakota want to change it, but its unlikely to occur.

Tracy Potter, a freshman Democrat from Bismarck, is asking the state Legislature to end North Dakota's status as one of seven states that have anti-cohabitation laws on the books. It has rejected three such attempts since 1990.

"Mark Twain expressed a simple view of people's personal relationships with government ... that I think government should adopt. That is, I don't care what you do, as long as you don't scare the horses," Potter said Wednesday during a North Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on his repeal measure.


Tom Freier, a spokesman for the North Dakota Family Alliance, said repealing North Dakota's anti-cohabitation law would signal that the state doesn't value marriage and the societal benefits it brings.

"If we look at the research, social science evidence suggests that living together is not a good way to prepare for marriage, or to avoid divorce," Freier said. "Cohabitating is not positive for the family, and poses a special risk for women and children."

So, it would literally take billions of dollars to enforce the law. In fact, recent Census data shows that cohabitation is at an all time high, and is rapidly increasing throughout the U.S. No one really wants to do that, because disrupting up millions of relationships that way would be wildly unpopular. I could just see the campaign commercials now. Vote Democratic: Because we don't hassle you about who you're banging.

For decades now, the predominant metaphor has been that Republicans are the "Daddy" party - strong, serious, concerned about business and the military - and that Democrats are the "Mommy" party - caring, accepting, concerned about education and health care. But in reality, it turns out that Republicans are the aging Grandma party - hysterically concerned about when your wedding and when you're going to give her grandchildren, and yet prudishly unable to have an honest conversation about relationships or sex, because "people just don't talk about those things. And the rest of the family just nods, smiles, makes excuses, and then puts her into a home where they don't have to listen to her ranting on a daily basis.

Now, conservative opponents have a point - all the social science evidence I've seen indicates that on average, children living in married households do better then children in single parent or cohabitating households. But they don't have the courage of their convictions needed to actually enforce a law on the books, or repeal it, because that would require that they admit that its a bigoted and/or unenforceable law.

That sort of cowardice has always bothered me. If you're going to believe something, believe in it, own up to your beliefs, and accept the results of your beliefs. But if you're unwilling to live with the consequences of your beliefs, you're either an idiot, a hypocrite, or both.


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